Here’s an excerpt of the story from Merritt Melancon of OnlineAthens.com titled “Some Sour as State Grabs Raw Milk — Inspectors impound supply meant to be sold at Athens farmers market”:
Athens locally grown food advocate Eric Wagoner has an appointment with representatives from the state Department of Agriculture on Monday.
They are coming to his house to watch him pour out 110 gallons of unpasteurized milk.
Inspectors call the milk, which is illegal to sell or distribute in Georgia, an imminent health risk, but the dozens of people who had ordered the milk say it tastes better and is better for you than pasteurized milk.
“People have been drinking raw milk for millennia,” said Melissa Link, who buys her groceries from Athens Locally Grown, the food network Wagoner runs, and has been drinking raw milk for two years. “And all of the sudden, we have to put it through this extra process before we can drink it?”
The impounded milk was ordered by customers of Athens Locally Grown – a Web site that collects orders for meat and produce, matches the requests to local farmers’ stock and distributes the food. Customers purchase the milk from a dairy in South Carolina, where it is legal to sell and distribute unpasteurized milk, and Web site organizers bring it to Athens on a weekly basis.
About 2,000 customers use the Athens Locally Grown Web site to buy groceries and about 100 farmers use the site to market their produce, said Wagoner, who organized the network of farmers and operates the site. Customers order early in the week and then pick up their groceries on Thursdays at the old Athens Farmers Market on West Broad Street.
This week, when Wagoner arrived to set up the market for people to pick up their groceries, inspectors from the state Department of Agriculture were waiting for him.
They wanted to make sure Wagoner wasn’t selling any un-inspected meat, but what they found was 110 gallons of unpasteurized milk from the Cows R Us Dairy in South Carolina.
It is legal to sell unpasteurized milk for human consumption in South Carolina, but Georgia laws ban selling or distributing raw milk for human consumption, according to agriculture department regulations.
The inspectors told Wagoner they had no choice but to impound the $440 worth of creamy contraband, he said.
Because the inspectors were in sedans, they could not confiscate the seven coolers full of milk, so they placed impound stickers on the containers.
“They are going to meet me at my house Monday morning and watch me pour it all out,” Wagoner said. “It’s like the 1930s and bootlegging whiskey or something.”
The scene would be comical if so many customers weren’t disappointed, he said. Raw milk is popular and drew new people to the Athens Locally Grown network….”
David E. Gumpert of the Complete Patient blog has published a commentary on this case and what it portends. An excerpt:
“Every week for the last five years, Eric Wagoner, a Georgia farmer, has been delivering raw milk to members of a buyers club he organized. Because he is bringing the milk from dairies in neighboring South Carolina, he is meticulous about the process he follows. Members of the buyers club place their orders directly with the South Carolina farms, and each gallon of milk is assigned to a specific consumer. “We don’t even bring a single extra gallon back with us,” he tells me. “Each gallon has to have a name tied to it.”
The acquisition of South Carolina raw milk by Georgia consumers is necessary because Georgia only allows the sale of raw milk for animal consumption, while South Carolina allows the sale of raw milk from farms to consumers.
When Eric arrived today at anold farmers market in Athens with 100-plus gallons of milk for club members, three agents from the Georgia Department of Agriculture were waiting for him.
“They told me it’s illegal to cross state lines to sell or distribute raw milk, and distribute is the key word. They taped all my coolers shut and put a ‘stop sale’ notice on them. They said they’re going to come to my farm Monday morning and destroy the milk. Unless we get the authorities to stop it. I think this load is lost, but perhaps we can do something in coming weeks.”
Eric says he spoke with head of the dairy division at the Georgia Department of Agriculture (Peggy Gates). “She was very gruff with me. She told me it’s against Georgia law to sell or distribute raw milk. She wouldn’t listen to me that it was South Carolina milk. Right now they have told me no raw milk can be distributed in Georgia. They used the words, ‘imminent health hazard.’ Until I can get someone to look at us long enough to realize we aren’t doing anything wrong… we are done.”
Not surprisingly, many of the people who bought the milk are upset. “A number get it for health reasons. The only thing I can tell them is to drive to South Carolina and pick it up themselves. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes.”
According to Pete Kennedy, head of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, today’s raid has all the earmarks of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration around it. “I don’t think Georgia would be enforcing a federal law without encouragement from FDA. (Georgia authorities) have been aware of this for a long time. Why take action now? It’s not a violation of Georgia law. You can consume raw milk in Georgia. It’s not a violation of South Carolina law.” Federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines. But the sale had already been made, in South Carolina. The sold milk was simply being delivered to its owners….”
Photo from Whistling Wind Farm